I read an article yesterday that pissed me off. It was probably intended to do so, and if so, well, it succeeded. It was called “Are Men Boring?,” from the summer edition of Intelligent Life, a new (and rather intelligent) lifestyle magazine from the Economist. The author, Sabine Durrant, recounts story after factoid after study to prove that men are more “boring,” self-centered, introverted, and downright sullen than women.

OK, fair enough — I will admit that we girls like to bond through talking things over, again and again, until we are blue in the face. I won’t deny that.

I will contend, however, that not all men are boring. In fact, I am married to a man who, by Durrant’s standards, is far less boring than I am myself. He is a much better conversationalist than I am, and when we go to parties or social gatherings, I rely on him to keep the flow of conversation going. I am too much of an introvert to have much of a knack for small talk. Durrant quotes Paula Hall, a counsellor, in attributing our differences to “Jungian personality types,” wherein “the introverted is attracted to the extroverted.” According to Hall, women often complain that their men “just sit there”.

I don’t doubt that opposites do attract. In our case, however, it is often me and not my husband who “just sits there,” at least in social settings anyway. It’s much easier for me to let him take the burden of keeping the conversation going, which he seems to do effortlessly. I’m generally far too fascinated by group dynamics to actually uphold my own responsibility to be a part of that group. I prefer to sit back and watch the flow, seeing how certain things affect certain people, feeling the undercurrents of human interaction. With my extroverted husband around, I don’t have to worry about leaving awkward silences trailing behind me as I fade into the background. It suits us both perfectly.

My husband isn’t alone in his defiance of gender stereotypes, either. For the most part, all of his friends are sociable, friendly fellows — and not in a boring, self-important way, as the men of Durrant’s acquaintance seem to be. Their conversations are generally well-informed and entertaining, ranging far beyond just their personal accomplishments or professional lives.

What’s more, all of my husband’s friends love to talk. In fact, when they come to visit, usually I am the first to cry mercy and head off to bed, leaving the boys to stay up talking til all hours of the morning. But not so for the men in Durrant’s life. In the article, she describes a friend’s dinner out with her husband, a rare enough event for two new parents. Her friend later told her about her husband’s complete silence during their dinner, marveling, “If I’d been with you or another girlfriend, even if we’d seen each other earlier in the day, we’d have been gabbling away 19 to the dozen.”

When I read this story, I just had to laugh. See, my husband is currently on the last day of a four-day bachelor party trip to Tahoe with his friends from graduate school. That means plenty of cat time for me, alone and quiet in the house. But it also means tons of dog time for him, hanging out and talking with old friends he hardly ever sees any more. The one time I have spoken to him all weekend, their voices were loud in the background, chatting and laughing just as much as my friends and I did on a similar bachelorette weekend back in May. Nineteen to the dozen indeed. Now who’s gabbling?

And really, it’s not just men that I know, either. Last weekend, my brother and I did a trail run in the local state park, which tends to be crowded on summer weekends. A group of three men, older than us but clearly highly proficient runners, passed us both on the way out and on the way back. (Here I noticed my competitive, military-trained brother yearning to speed up, but he survived the temptation and generously kept himself to my more sedate pace.)

Both times they came roaring up behind us, I swear it could’ve been a gaggle of women for the amount of loud, high-spirited chatter flowing between them. They were all three talking excitedly in rapid, breathless bursts, gossiping and laughing their way up and down the trail. Besides being in awe of their ability to talk so much while maintaining such a rapid pace, I just had to laugh at the sheer wonderful exuberance of their conversation. Anyone who truly believes that women talk more than men just has to listen to a group of guys like that, or to my husband and his friends, and they will be hard pressed to maintain their belief.

Perhaps Californians really are different than the rest of the world. Or perhaps Durrant just isn’t socializing with a large enough group of people. Instead of finding men “crashingly dull,” as she seems to, I have always found that some of the most fascinating and entertaining people in my life, hands down, are men. I spend about 75% of my time with either my husband, my brother, or my dad, which to me says a lot.

So I’m sorry, but no, men are not boring. Some of them are, but I’ve also met my fair share of abysmally boring women, too. In fact, to many who meet me in a social setting, I probably appear quite boring myself! In general, the men I know are just as diverse, funny, profound, loving, and sociable as the women, and in some cases much more so. To say otherwise seems to me both sexist and small-minded, or at least far too quick to lump the majority of interesting, verbose men in with the few bad apples that are taciturn and, well, boring.

Advertisements